Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gods of Cable

I woke up the other morning to see both of my kids sitting in front of the television mesmerized by the static on the screen.

“You look like the little girl in Poltergeist,” I said.

“Who?” they asked.

Apparently, they’d never seen the early 80s horror flick nor had the seen the cable go out.

“Something’s wrong with the television,” my daughter.

“Yes, the cable’s out,” I explained.

“It is?” she said, sounding surprised and full of wonder. She’s 15, by the way.

Hearing her amazement at the failure of modern technology reminded me of my youth. I’m pretty sure my years of prayers to the cable gods are responsible for its reliability today.

You see, nothing would infuriate my dad more than the cable going out, especially when it took place right in the middle of the Georgia game. It would go out, come back, go out, come back on right at a pivotal moment – talk about Poltergeist!

After a few choice words, my dad would stomp over to the rotary dial phone and call the local cable company to come fix it. It would be busy. He would hang up and dial the seven digit number again – click, click, click, waiting for each digit to finish, putting his finger in the hole and moving the dial around the face of the phone because if his finger slipped, he’d have to start over. Regardless, the phone would still be busy. In fact, it would stay busy the rest of the afternoon, sometimes even into the night as all the other residents called to complain – or either the cable company just took its phone off the hook.

Either way, my dad would turn bright red, a tell-tale sign for me to stay out of the way. He’d rage around the house until Mom would tell him to calm down and then he’d go outside and stomp and curse back and forth in front of the window. More often than not, he’d see Clarence, our neighbor, outside stomping and cursing in front of his own house. That and the time someone at their house got bitten by a copperhead were the only times I remember him and my dad talking. They’d look at each other and throw up their hands.

“#@%& cable company! I gotta good mind to go down there and #@%&!” they’d shout back and forth across the street to one another.

“How long’s yours been out?” Dad would yell in his Southern accent.

“Four hours! Line’s been busy the whole time,” Mr. Clarence, a transplant, would yell back in his Northern one. Some things transcend the Mason/Dixon line.

Inside, I would observe and say my silent and fervent prayers for the cable to please, please come back on. Even the cable gods work on their own timetable, however, because eventually, Dad would give up hope and angrily pull out the rabbit ears.

Rabbit ears are what we called television antennas. We’d wrap aluminum foil on the end like a flag, and it was my sister’s and my job to stand there and move the rabbit ears until we got some semblance of a television picture – usually the end result was equal to the static picture without cable, particularly if it were a cloudy day.

We took pride in getting the picture as close to viewable as we could. Problem was the antenna would never stand up straight on its own, so once we got it in position, we’d have to stay there and hold it much longer than we wanted, especially when the aforementioned Georgia game was on. It felt like hours. Truthfully, it was probably five minutes or until Georgia fumbled and made Dad so mad, he’d tell us to just turn the TV off because they weren't worth watching.

Funny how a few minutes of static can bring back all of those memories. By the way, after a half-day of it, my husband called the cable company. Turns out it was on our end. I had apparently unplugged something called the signal booster. It must  have happened as I was looking through a basket of socks for a mate to my favorite pair of running Thorlos. I always knew the sock and cable gods were in cahoots.